Lisa's Book Review - Green Marketing Class by cuiliqing


									Material Change; Design Thinking and the Social Entrepreneurship
                                Eve Blossom, 2011
About the Author
In 1992, Eve Blossom found herself in a dusty bustling marketplace in Hanoi,
transfixed by the stalls of textile vendors, whose rich colors, textures, patterns
‘stirred something deep within her soul’. Blossom was in the middle of a one year
sabbatical from the respected architecture firm Gensler, where she had been
employed for the previous two years. A graduate of Tulane University’s Architecture
program, Blossom had assumed that she would spend her career designing
buildings. But steel and glass did not speak to her as textiles did. The weavers she
met on that trip through South East Asia ‘awakened in her a longing to design
something personal, immediate, that expressed a culture’.

Upon the completion of business school in 1994 Blossom returned to Hanoi to
renovate old French villas housing the many Western corporations that were
“discovering” Vietnam. It was during this two-year period that Blossom was
violently confronted by the ugly reality of human trafficking. Not knowing it at the
time, this experience would change her forever, pivoting her life towards one of
social change.

After many years with early-stage technology firms in Silicon Valley, non-profit
work in San Francisco, Blossom moved to Charleston, SC to work with the American
College of the Building Arts. Throughout this time Blossom made repeated visits to
South East Asia’s weaving centers, and eventually decided that she needed to build a
business with these communities. Her combined background in architecture, design,
business development and marketing had positioned her to start a textile business.

In 2004 Lulan Artisans was born. Lulan Artisans is a for profit social venture, based
on Blossom’s idea of “true sustainability”. In 2012 she will launch the website,
“We’ve”, that will provide a “novel way to buy and sell artisanal goods, and is driven
by story.” Lulan’s success has launched Blossom into the international spotlight and
she is a frequent lecturer on design and social change. She has been asked to speak
at TED and is an Aspen Institute Liberty Fellow.

In Material Change, Blossom describes her journey and those of more than two
dozen other “disruptive entrepreneurs. Disruptive entrepreneurs have created new
strategies and concepts in their effort to “effect systemic global change”. Blossom
recognizes that good design is not just about style, but about “deep systemic
engagement”. She posits that, “systems design results in better culture and better
business”. With Lulan she creates a viable business model for artisans, based on ‘a
new business ecosystem’ that emphasizes; listening, structuring a business around
culture, building a company around people, making meaningful products, bringing
value and incubating future partners. This concept is changing the world by
empowering those who embrace Blossom’s model of social entrepreneurship.

Yves Behar does a brilliant job in the forward, preparing the reader for what is at
the heart of this book, that, “The best design work-and the design work with the
greatest longevity-is formed through partnerships, not short-term engagements.”
There is a new dialogue between the consumer and producer, and technology,
allows for that direct communication. Buyers want to be a part of the creation of the
products they purchase, which in Behar’s opinion, “indicates that we are moving
from the age of mass production into the age of mass individualization”. Today’s
consumer wants their products to embody their values of sustainability and social
good, but also be attractive and reasonably priced.

Blossom capitalizes on this notion with her grassroots, for-profit business, Lulan
Artisans. Lulan designs, produces and markets high-end textiles for the Western
market, while sustaining and honoring the rich cultural heritage of the individual
weavers(artisans). Lulan employs over 650 weavers, dyers, finishers and spinners
in Cambodia, Laos, India, Thailand and Vietnam. Lulan’s workers are well paid,
receive excellent benefits, and are educated on and encouraged to replicate this
sustainable business model. Blossom has her workers sign a coop contract, a new
but necessary concept for many of her weavers. The contracts include agreement on
Blossom’s philosophy of true sustainability: ecological, economic, social, cultural,
communal and personal.

Blossom recognizes that weaver’s talents in the developing world are largely
untapped. She rejects the notion employed by most international organizations and
NGO’s, who come in and try to teach the people what they believe to be useful skills,
when the weavers are already trained, “and exquisitely so”. Blossom believes that,
“Instead of imposing our own methods-work with what exists on the ground.” Her
“bottom-up philosophy invigorates ancestral artistic processes and creates value by
honoring values”. This holistic, decentralized, business model of social
entrepreneurship considers people, and develops solutions from their perspective.
She feels that this gives many of her female workers, and their children, a real and
permanent way of avoiding the trap of human trafficking, an all to frequent reality
for women in Asia.

Material Change is designed in an unusual manner. Most pages tell two separate
but contiguous tales. At first I found this back and forth a bit frustrating, but
eventually I saw the beauty within it. Much like an intricate weaving pattern, there
is a warp and a weft, whose relationship is often not realized until the particular
pattern takes shape. Blossom includes two different colored bookmarks to help
facilitate the reading of the bisected pages. For example, in the first chapter I see a
unique purposefulness that Eve draws on between her experiences discovering
textiles(which is told at the top of the page), and her description of the changing
behavior of today’s consumer(bottom). This gentle dance between tales goes on
through the entire book, with Blossom introducing us to a wide range of “disruptive
entrepreneurs” whose stories are about a new world unfolding . For Blossom, “the
social venture movement is not a career or a business path, it is a life path”.

I share Eve Blossom’s love of textiles, South East Asia, and working for social change,
so this book was practically written for me. When she describes ‘cradling a piece of
fabric in her hands’, and “admiring the soft texture and fine craftsmanship,
something stirred deep in my soul”, I was right there with her, in that noisy Hanoi
marketplace. I understand now, how design can change the world. Blossoms open
source business model and the stories of the “disruptive entrepreneurs” left me
energized and inspired by the new world that lies before me.

Reviewer: Lisa Rosenbaum

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